I've been reading the book, "The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos," by Brian Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University and well-known superstring theorist. I was startled in chapter 9 to read that the next dominant theme in physics is "information." In fact, he posits that the reality we experience in three-dimensions is actually a holograph driven by information on the "boundary surface" of space.
What he's talking about (I think) is something BI professionals know well. We call it metadata: the information that describes the data or facts of reality which we capture in our computer systems. Metadata drive applications (at least in the best designed systems), which execute tasks, such as capture orders, issue queries, and control inventory. In essence, metadata are the brains of applications that make action possible.
This seems to be what Greene is getting at. But I'll let him explain:
"During a lunch we had at Princeton in 1998, I asked [John Wheeler, one of the twentieth -century physics' most celebrated thinkers] what he thought the dominant theme in physics would be in the decades going forward. As he had already done frequently that day, he put his head down, as if his aging frame had grown weary of supporting such a massive intellect. But now the length of his silence left me wondering, briefly, whether he didn't want to answer or whether, perhaps, he had forgotten the question. He then slowly looked up and said a single word: 'information'...."
"Traditionally, physics focuses on things--planets, rocks, atoms, particles, fields--and investigates the forces that affect their behavior and govern their interactions. Wheeler was suggesting that things--matter and radiation--should be viewed as secondary, as carriers of a more abstract and fundamental entity: information. It's not that matter and radiation were somehow illusory; rather, he argued that they should be viewed as the material manifestations of something more basic. He believed that information--where a particle is, whether it is spinning one way or another, whether its charge is positive or negative, and so on--forms an irreducible kernel at the heart of reality. That such information is instantiated in real particles, occupying real positions, having definite spins and charges, is something like an architect's drawings being realized as a skyscraper. The fundamental information is in the blueprints. The skyscraper is but a physical realization of the information contained in the architect's design."
"From this perspective, the universe can be thought of as an information processor. It takes information regarding how things are now and produces information delineating how things will be at the next now, and the now after that. Our senses become aware of such processing by detecting how the physical environment changes over time. But the physical environment itself is emergent; it arises from the fundamental ingredient, information, and evolves according to the fundamental rules, the laws of physics."
This is astonishing. Greene is basically saying that the fundamental building block of the universe is not some particle, but information. And that information (as he explains later) exists outside our "reality"--on the boundary surface of our universe, as informed by research on black holes done by Stephen Hawking.
If this is true, then perhaps BI professionals have an intuitive feel for the inner working of the universe since we model reality in metadata to run applications and guide behavior. According to Greene, the Universe does likewise: it uses metadata to guide Earthly reality. Interesting!
Posted May 4, 2011 6:43 PM
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